Thomas von Kempen

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Thomas von Kempen, contemporary painting in Zwolle
Thomas von Kempen, contemporary representation

Thomas von Kempen , lat. Thomas a Kempis (* around 1380 in Kempen as Thomas Hemerken ; † July 25, 1471 in the Agnetenberg Monastery ("Bergkloster") near Zwolle ), was an Augustinian canon , mystic and spiritual writer of the 15th century .

life and work

After attending the Latin school in Kempen, Thomas followed his older brother Johannes and moved to Deventer in 1392 as a teenager . Here he spent seven years at the city school with studies under master Johann Boom, the first years in the house of a noble benefactress, the last in the house of Florentius Radewijns as a member of the Brothers of Life Together .

In 1399 he moved to the Agnetenberg monastery near Zwolle, where his brother had just become prior, and lived there for 72 years, until his death. He was not clothed until 1406, in 1413 he was ordained a priest , in 1425 and 1447 he was subprior of the monastery.

For a long time he devoted himself to the education of novices. These activities left him the four-part writing Imitation of Christ (Imitation of Christ) produced; however, his authorship was long contested. For a long time, this book was the most widely distributed book after the Bible .

Other at least temporarily important works are the biography of Gerard Groote and a chronicle of Agnetenberg. He also wrote numerous ascetic, historiographical and biographical works. His work as a composer and poet of songs is doubted. His works were first printed in the 15th century as "Opera omnia", the first complete edition is that of the Jesuit Sommalius , which appeared from 1600, then in 1615 in the 3rd complete edition. A critical complete edition was published by MJ Pohl in 7 volumes from 1902 to 1922.

The monastery was completely destroyed and demolished in the warlike confessional conflicts of the 16th century. Thomas' bones had been in a wooden shrine in the new Michaeliskirche in Zwolle from their elevation in the 17th century until June 4th, 2006 . On that day the shrine was brought to the Basilica of Our Lady in a solemn procession .

Shrine in the Liebfrauenbasilika Zwolle.


The Gymnasium Thomaeum in Kempen is named after Thomas.

The Evangelical Name Calendar of the Evangelical Church in Germany commemorates Thomas von Kempen on July 25th .

The Roman Catholic Church has initiated a beatification process for Thomas von Kempen several times, but none of them was ever completed. Nevertheless, Thomas is the patron saint of Kempen and July 25th is also his day of remembrance for the Roman Catholic Church.



Opera spirituale, Venice 1568
  • Imitation of Christ , translated by JMSailer (in 114 chapters) at Projekt Gutenberg and Zeno ( )
  • Thomae a Kempis books about the  imitation of Christ : on the new, according to one of the very oldest manuscripts, faithfully translated, and instead of the fourth book augmented with the Divine Hertzens-Talks of the godly Gerlachs, generally referred to the other Thomas a Kempis, now first Germanized. .. / Translator: Gerhard Tersteegen . - Düsseldorf: van der Smissen, 1730. ( digitized version )
  • Ingenious writings: 24 books and the 4 books of succession, introduction and translation: Gottfried Arnold , 1200+ pages, Leipzig 1733 digitized
  • The books of following Christ. Troschel, Trier 1832. ( digitized version )
  • From following Christ. Dr. u. Verl. D. Rhenish school bookshop, Meurs 1842. ( digitized version )
  • Thomas von Kempis, four books on the following of Christ. Kollmann, Augsburg approx. 1850 ( digitized version )
  • The Lilienthal . - Regensburg: Manz, 1920. ( digitized version )
  • MS-B-174 - Thomas a Kempis. Ephraem Syrus. (Ps .-) Basilius Magnus (theological collective manuscript). 's-Hertogenbosch 1467 digitized
  • Imitatio Christi, Liber I: Admonitiones ad spiritualem vitam utiles . Peter ter Hoernen, Cologne around 1486. ​​( digitized version )
  • Meditationes de vita of Jesus Christ . Johann Amerbach & Johannes Petri , Basel approx. 1489 ( digitized )
  • Imitatio Christi . [Anton Koberger], [Nuremberg] 1492 ( digitized version ; Daran: Gerson, Johannes: De meditatione cordis )
  • The life of Master Gerhard . Kulmbach 2016, ISBN 978-3-943506-35-8 .


Web links

Commons : Thomas a Kempis  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Jakob Hermes: The old Kempen. A city in the mirror of the centuries. Krefeld 1982, pp. 172-189.
  2. Gaspard de GRÉGORY et al., Memorandum on the true author of the book of the discipleship of Christ ... from 1832
  3. Thomas von Kempen in the Ecumenical Lexicon of Saints